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Hospital roll-out for four-legged scheme to combat loneliness

Wednesday, 17 April, 2019
Hospital roll-out for four-legged scheme to combat loneliness

A partnership aimed at combatting loneliness with a little four-legged help has now been extended to patients in hospitals thanks to its incredible success to date.

Last summer Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust teamed up with Wag and Company North East Friendship Dogs to enable volunteers and (importantly!) their dogs to visit older dog lovers in their own homes in Northumberland who miss the friendship and the company of a dog if they are no longer able to have one of their own.

Thanks to positive feedback and with more than 20 older people benefitting from the scheme in its first eight months, now patients on hospital wards across Northumberland and North Tyneside can also receive a visit from a canine companion.

The partnership, supported by the trust’s Bright Northumbria charity, is to help foster social interaction among patients and improve their experiences of being in hospital.

Gillian Messenger is the matron at Hexham General Hospital where the scheme was launched.

She said: “We’re delighted to be extending our partnership with Wag and Company to benefit patients in our hospitals.

“We fully understand that being in hospital can be a lonely time for our patients, particularly those who do not have any family and friends popping in. For patients like this, especially for the dog lovers among them, having a visit from a furry friend can really brighten up their day and give them a much-needed boost.

“In addition, having social interaction with the volunteer can really lift patients’ spirits and can help them to feel better quicker and get back to their homes and loved ones.

“From the success of the partnership in the community we know the difference the scheme makes for people who may feel isolated and we’re looking forward to it benefiting many more.”

Diane Morton, founding director of Wag and Company, said: “We have been really pleased by the success of our partnership with Northumbria Healthcare in the community and the positive impact it is having on people’s lives.

“It’s well documented that loneliness and social isolation can have a severely detrimental effect on people’s health and there is no better cure than our special friends with two and with four legs.

“Having these visits to look forward to has made all the difference to those people already referred by the trust and I can’t wait to see our teams on the wards!”

Linda Gray and Ollie are one of dozens of what are known as ‘Visiting Wag Teams’ at the charity and took part in the launch. Linda routinely looks after Ollie, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, while his owner Kim Minnis works as a matron at the trust.

“Ollie is such a lovely-natured dog and he’s really friendly,” said Linda, who lives in Hexham.

“He adores meeting people and I so do I so we’re ideal for this role.

“Seeing the boost it gives to patients is hugely rewarding – it’s almost immediate and very real. I’m delighted to be able to play my part – with Ollie of course! – and am very much looking forward to visiting patients in hospital.”

The dogs taking part in the scheme have been assessed as suitable to go into hospitals and the strictest infection control practices will be adhered to.

The partnership complements the work already taking place at the trust to encourage social interaction among its patients staying on wards with regular activities and events, some involving young volunteers.

Northumbria Healthcare’s Bright charity supports a number of projects in hospitals and the community which provides the extras which make a difference to people living in Northumberland and North Tyneside.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering with Wag and Company visit

Media contact:

Jaclyn Curry – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

0191 203 1654 / 07833 046680